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Parapsychology. Dick Bierman University of Amsterdam 17 april 2012, Brein & Cognitie , Universiteit van Amsterdam. The Phenomena. Telepathy E.g. phone-telepathy Clairvoyance E.g. Dunne’s dream Precognition/sentiment E.g. 9-11 Psychokinese

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Dick Bierman

University of Amsterdam

17 april 2012, Brein & Cognitie , Universiteit van Amsterdam

The phenomena
The Phenomena

  • Telepathy

    • E.g. phone-telepathy

  • Clairvoyance

    • E.g. Dunne’s dream

  • Precognition/sentiment

    • E.g. 9-11

  • Psychokinese

    • E.g. Poltergeist

Paranormal explanation
Paranormal ‘Explanation’

  • Mental Radio (extra sensory perception)

    • Selectivity problem !!!!!!

  • Mental distance control (PK)

  • Precognition ?????

  • This model has misguided research

Normal explanation
Normal Explanation

  • Coincidence

  • Selective memory

  • False memories

  • Cheating

  • So controlled lab-research

    • Rhine (card guessing), Heymans

    • E.g. phone-telepathy

Quantitative research 1930 1960
Quantitative research 1930-1960

Telepathy clairvoyance


Quantitative research 1960 1980
Quantitative research 1960-1980

Telepathy clairvoyance


Onderzoekspracticum uva

  • 6 proefpersonen met elk vier bellers

  • Alle bellers zijn goede vrienden van de proefpersoon

  • Proefleider bezoekt proefpersoon thuis tijdens de zitting om fraude uit te sluiten

  • Proefpersoon noemt naam van random beller voor het opnemen van de telefoon (p=0.25)

  • Correlatie met Locale Sterrentijd (LocalSidereal Time (LST))


  • Sommige bellers blijken niet bereikbaar tijdens de zittingen.

    • Daardoor zijn er eigenlijk maar drie bellers

    • Als de proefpersoon hiervan weet, is de kans groter dat zij goed raadt

  • Oplossing:

    • Nogmaals de analyse doen met alleen de correct verlopen zittingen

Resultaten telefoontelepathie alleen correct verlopen zittingen
Resultaten telefoontelepathie(alleen correct verlopen zittingen)

Unification dunne revisited
Unification (Dunne revisited)

  • Telepathy = Clairvoyance =

    Precognition of feedback=

    TIME ‘reversal’

    • Psychokinesis = decrease entropy =

    second law in thermodynamics

    but with reversed ‘TIME’.

Advantages of unified model
Advantages of unified model

  • Selectivity problem Solved

  • Integration with main stream

    • Intuition research -> presentiment

    • Cognitive research -> retroactive paradigms

      • Retroactive habituation

      • Retroactive priming

      • Retroactive interference

    • Main stream but manipulation after measurement.

Presentiment research
Presentiment research

Random (roulette like) future conditions

Physiology preceding the manipulation.

Intuition research
Intuition research

  • Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Tranel, D., & Damasio, A. R. (1997). Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy. Science, 275, 1293-1295.


  • IOWA Gambling task. Take a card from one of 4 decks. Cards can be loosing or winning (the amount of $$ you win or loose is on the other side of the card).

Damasio s iowa gambling procedure

Draws card

Feedback: win or loss

Damasio’s IOWA gambling procedure

Participants get initially $2000

They take a card from 1 of 4 decks.Two are bad decks.

Skin Conductance is recorded and averaged separately for the trials in which the subject choose a card from good decks vs trials where subject choose a card from the bad decks




Results for healthy subjects
Results for healthy subjects

Subjects take more often from good decks while thinking they are just guessing, they learn the good decks. (IMPLICIT LEARNING)

Before the subjects explicitly formulate the difference between the decks of cards, their body already ‘knows’. This is indicated by larger skin conductance before taking from a bad deck.(SOMATIC MARKER)

There is criticism on the experiments and the interpretation. Nonetheless Intuition seem to be driven by past information.

Damasio s somatic marker model

Current similar problem

Good or Bad outcome

Damasio’s Somatic Marker model

PAST (impl. learning)

PRESENT (biased selection)

Previous problem and decision (selection of alternative)

Actual decision

NC Reduction of


Somatic Marking

Of Decision

Integration with presentiment
Integration with presentiment

PAST (impl. learning)

PRESENT (biased selection)

Previous problem and decision (selection of alternative)

Current similar problem

Actual decision

Good or Bad outcome

NC Reduction of


Somatic Marking

Of Decision

Driven by the future outcome

Future outcome

Past outcomes

Driven by the future outcome?




Actual decision







Pre sentiment in iowa gambling task
Pre-sentiment in IOWA Gambling task?

How do we measure presentiment:

  • Anticipation of a random event (feedback)

  • Two potential outcomes

  • One good, one bad

    But wait a moment.......

    There are winning and loosing cards in all the decks!

    So: Do not average SC over bad en good decks but over the winning and loosing cards within the decks!

Card analysis damasio s gambling experiment
CARD!-analysis Damasio’s Gambling experiment

  • t = 1.634; df=117 ; p =0.053

  • • Presentiment effect : 20%!

Animal fear study 1999

150 msec

7 sec

Fixation stimulus


Animal Fear Study (1999)

Globisch, J., Hamm, A.O., Estevez, F., and Ehman, A. (1999). Psychophysiology, 36, pp. 66-75.

6850 msec


Skin Conductance



Published results



Published Results

Baseline had been set at stimulus-onset

All signals are clamped to 0 there.

Results re analysis raw data




Results re-analysis raw data

Baseline set at -7 seconds


Presentiment variables
Presentiment variables

• Dependent Variables

  • Skin Conductance

  • HR

  • EEG, CNV

  • BOLD

  • Blinks, pupil dilation, eye movement

  • Independent Variables

    • Pictures, sounds, shocks, slotmachine

  • Banana banana apple

    Banana Banana Apple

    Results in EEG different from resulting from Banana, Banana, Banana

    Feps5 2003
    FEPS5 2003

    • KUB

    Donkers, FCL & Boxtel, GJM Van (2005)

    Mediofrontal negativities to averted Gains and Losses in the Slot-Machine Task.

    Journal of Psychophysiology, 19 (4)






    • 32 Volunteers

    • 128 trials

    • Each trial: participant pays 0.50 euro

    • XXX gives 7 REAL euro (p=12.5%)

    • Random with replacement

    • Focus on mediofrontal electrodes (Fz, Pz, Cz)

    • Preprocessing identical to Donkerset al

    Overal result pooled over xxy xxx
    Overal result (pooled over XXY & XXX)

    • 1 participant: no usable data



    Gemiddeldverschil XXX-XXY in S2-S3 interval: 1.88 microV

    (t= 2.35 , df=30, p = 0.026)

    Relation with attention of participant
    Relation with attention of participant

    Effect in microvolts (*1000)

    Self-rated attention

    But difficult to replicate
    But difficult to replicate

    • Only special subjects? Could they feel their EEG?

    • Replication is an important issue

    Presentiment meta analysis
    Presentiment Meta-analysis

    • 37 studies, 15 different main authors

    • Mean effect size: 0.29

    • Combined p <10^-9

    • Filedrawer fail safe: 670

    • Gambler’s fallacy

    • Mossbridge et al (2011). In press.

    Bem s cognitive approach
    Bem’s cognitive approach

    • Cognitive measures

      • No physiology because of global replication

    • Reversed standard Psychological Paradigms

      • Manipulation after the measurement

        • Decision making

        • Habituation

        • Affective Priming

        • Retroactive memory facilitation

    Procedure retroactive facilitation of recall
    Procedure retroactive facilitation of recall

    3. Practice exercise

    2.Surprise Free



    To which category belongs

    To which category belongs

    1.Visualize words



    Random subsample

    of words

    Results bem studies
    Results Bem studies

    • Improved recall performance on words that got later extra exercise.

    • Results Retroactive Facilitation of Memory

      • (N=150) mean effect size: 0.30 (p<0.01)

    • Results all 9 studies

      • All Bem studies mean effect size: 0.22 (p<10^-10)


    • Statistical

      • Using Bayesian stats the null hypothesis is still to be preferred (Wagenmakers et al, 2011)…..

      • Over-analyses are not corrected for….

      • Combination of experimental results is not allowed….

    • Theoretical

      • Temporal Causality violation is not allowed……

    Necker cube study retroactive interference
    Necker Cube study:retroactive interference

    Bierman, D.J. (2011). Anomalous Switching of the Bi-Stable Percept of a Necker Cube: A Preliminary Study. JSE, 25-3, pp. 771-783.

    The necker cube experiment
    The Necker Cube experiment

    Change randomly into


    Top or Bottom view


    Top view is experienced

    Top view duration



    button press

    when experience switches


    button press

    Retroactive interference results
    Retroactive interference Results

    Followed by:

    (difference = 129, p<0.03)


    Effectsize = 0.17


    • Consciousness Induced restoration of Time Symmetry (CIRTS)

      • Maxwell EM theory: set of equations

      • Plug in 1: Initial conditions

      • Plug in 2: Boundary conditions

      • RESULT: Retarded solution and Advanced solution

      • But not observed in physical systems

        • Feyman & Wheeler: Cosmological Boundary Condition

    Bierman, D.J. (2010) CIRTS, a psychophysical theoretical perspective, JoP, 74, pp. 273-299)

    Special boundary condition
    Special Boundary condition

    • Information processed by brains sustaining consciousness.

    • Individual differences ~ brain coherence?

      • ‘Supported’ by larger effects by meditators

    Replication issues
    Replication issues

    • Psi phenomena are notoriously difficult to replicate

    • Traditionally ’explained’ by psychological variables (large uncontrolled variance)

    • and Experimenter effect

    • But maybe intrinsic???????

    The paradoxes
    The paradoxes

    • Formally Retro-Causality equivalent with backward time travel.

    • But that results in……. ‘grandfather like’ paradoxes

      • Source of event is destroyed.

      • Perfect and detailed precognitive dream that your house will burn down tomorrow………

    Avoiding paradoxes
    Avoiding paradoxes

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

    The Novikovself-consistencyprinciple, alsoknown as the Novikovself-consistencyconjecture, is a principledevelopedbyRussianphysicistIgor Dmitriyevich Novikov in the mid-1980s to solve the problem of paradoxes in time travel, which is theoreticallypermitted in certainsolutions of general relativity (solutionscontainingwhat are known as closed timelike curves). Statedsimply, the Novikovconsistencyprincipleassertsthatifaneventexiststhatwouldgiverise to a paradox, or to any "change" to the past whatsoever, then the probability of thatevent is zero. In short, itsaysthatit'simpossible to createtime paradoxes

    Take home messages
    Take home messages

    Parapsychology develops into para-physics with ‘retrocausality’ as key topic. Experimental paradigms are from psychology.

    Physics does not exclude ‘advanced’ effects

    Retrocausality implies restrictions in replication.

    Sequential replication might intrinsically becoming more and more difficult.

    Role of (neuro) psychology: Individual differences (Brain coherence?). Context variables